Reliability and Service: Technology's Most (and Least) Reliable Brands

Digital Cameras

Was it a fluke? Last year Fujifilm astonished us with an unexpected top-drawer showing, ranking alongside Panasonic as the most reliable camera brand on the market. This year the camera rankings shifted: Fujifilm sank back into the middle of the pack, and traditional category powerhouse Canon returned to the top of the list, where it had been a stalwart in prior years.

Results of our 2009 survey of digital camera reliability, by manufacturer.
This year's camera maker on the move was Nikon, which jumped from second-to-last in 2009's survey to third place this year, as users cited few problems on arrival and praised the brand's overall reliability. Though it didn't match the showings of Canon and Panasonic, Nikon would have come even closer to the top two this year if our survey respondents hadn't rated its cameras harder than average to use. (This rating isn't altogether surprising, however, since Nikon sells lots of sophisticated, high-end cameras with inherently more-complicated controls.)

At the bottom of our rankings this year are Kodak and Samsung, both of which received worse-than-average scores for "overall satisfaction with reliability" compared to their peers in the camera market. Kodak owners report high satisfaction levels with their cameras' ease of use, but report a higher-than-average rate of significant problems. Samsung cameras don't incur any more actual problems than other brands, according to readers, yet owners of the cameras report lower-than-average satisfaction levels with the general reliability of the cameras.

Printers

In the printer category, the results of this year's study looked oddly familiar. That's because the reliability numbers for consumer printers were almost unchanged from last year. For instance, in the new survey 7.0 percent of printer users reported severe problems with their machines, a statistical dead heat with last year's 7.2 percent.

Results of our 2009 survey of printer reliability and service, by manufacturer.
The year-to-year data for individual printer manufacturers in our survey looks similar, too. Canon again sparkled, with better-than-average ratings on seven criteria (last year Canon earned above-average marks on eight measures). For its part, Brother took some impressive strides upward, nabbing four better-than-average marks (up from just one the year before) and supplanting Samsung at number two.

This year, Samsung finished in a virtual tie with Epson, as both brands collected two better-than-average ratings. (Last year Samsung carded two above-average marks, and Epson one.) Notably, Samsung received the highest rating in the survey for ease of use, besting even Canon. Dell also made some laudable strides this year, transforming last year's two below-average ratings into average ones across the board.

Sherrell, a Memphis housewife and student
Kodak, however, experienced a downturn: Though owners of its printers felt good about Kodak's tech support, they gave the printers poor marks for reliability. HP cemented its spot at the bottom of the chart with five below-average ratings, matching its performance in last year's survey.

As in the past, however, HP's poor reliability and service scores haven't hurt its market share: Half of our respondents in the printer category remain HP customers...happy or not.

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